Reflection on Mission Sunday
By the Reverend Peter W. Allen
Hingham Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
May 7, 2017
The 23rd Psalm is most often read at funerals, but it was really wonderful to hear Amanda read it this morning on Mission Sunday. It’s beautiful and reassuring images remind us that, as we face the dark valleys of life, God guides and comforts us until we emerge once again into the light, restored to a sense of hopefulness and spiritual vitality.
I am so grateful for our two guest speakers today. The organizations they represent are our partners in caring for our neighbors, doing the work that we could never do without their training, expertise, and commitment. Bill and Sandra: We are honored to support you and learn from you.
Back in 1990, along with several other works of art, a Rembrandt called, Storm on the Sea of Galilee, was stolen from the Gardner Museum in Boston. The painting is Rembrandt’s only seascape and it’s absolutely stunning. It depicts the story of Jesus and his disciples on a boat that looks like it’s about to capsize in the heavy wind and the waves. A violent storm is causing the disciples to panic, but Jesus is as calm as calm can be. He challenges them to have faith and eventually stills the tempest.
Like the 23rd Psalm, this story has been a great comfort to many who have faced storms in their lives.
I know that, like me, all of you have faced difficult seasons in your lives. However, Interfaith Social Services and the South Shore Resource and Advocacy Center help folks every day who are in the midst of crises most of us cannot imagine. Some of you can imagine, I know, because you’ve been through similar hardships, but most of us cannot.
When faced with heavy winds and crashing waves, it’s hard to know where to turn. The 23rd Psalm says that God will lead us to still waters and restore our souls when the storm winds blow. The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus will calm our personal and communal storms. I believe that, too.
But how does it happen?
A friend recently shared an article with me from the New York Times by a Harvard economics professor named Sendhil Mullainathan. He wrote that we are acutely aware of the headwinds in our lives – those challenges (people and circumstances) – that buffet us and frighten us and hold us back. But, he writes, we are not as aware of the tailwinds in our lives – those people and forces that help us forward toward calmer seas and successes.
If we are in a good place, it is surely due in some measure to our own courage and faith and tenacity, but there are other forces at work. I believe that those forces are fueled and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, which is often described in scripture as a holy wind or the breath of God, which gets us where we need to go.
Partnering with organizations like Interfaith Social Services and the South Shore Resource and Advocacy Center, might we become part of those silent tailwinds for neighbors who need us, with the Wind of God at our back, moving us forward together?